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American In China: ‘Stock Up Now’

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I have been told three times in the last three days to stock up on basic supplies, including medicines, because there is about to be a huge shortage. The first two who told me this were doctors. Now this message comes via a friend, who got it from an old family friend in China. The author is an American who has been living in China for eight years. I have permission to share this as long as I take the author’s name off. The friend who shared it with me said that reading this, coming from a man she knows and trusts, has made the coronavirus threat real. The American in China sent it to his US friends. Read on:

TL/DR:  big impact coming on medical supplies, vitamins, and drugs.  Stock up now.
Hi all.  So the Corona Virus has shut down all of East and Central China and is now moving across other countries in Asia.  This is going to have deep and almost immediate effects on goods and products that are for sale in the US, on everything from auto parts to zippers.
Of greatest concern for now is what it will do to supplies of medical equipment and drugs, everything from band aids and cotton swabs and vitamins and prescription drugs of all kinds.  Also, protective gear like face masks and hazmat suits.
I strongly advise that you prepare your families accordingly, and consider begin stocking up on some of these items that will be in very high demand, very soon.  China makes of 90% of the drug ingredients and about 80% of the medical supplies used in the United States, and right now, nobody in China is making them at all.
I have been living in China for eight years and am on Wechat (a social networking app) with about 800 expatriate business executives across China.  The economy here no longer exists, basically.  It’s been closed for 3 weeks, and nobody really knows when the manufacturing sector or any of the factories will reopen.
Martial law has been declared in eight provinces with a total population of 500 million people, and the rest of us outside these zones have had our movements proscribed to going out to get groceries once every two days.  Army and police in the Eastern provinces (where most of the industry is) are arresting people who are outside their homes, though even that isn’t as effective as before because now so many military and police units are infected and unable to function.  There are very few flights available in; the roads and ports are closed, railroads shut down.  Even if a factory owner can get permission to open, his workers aren’t allowed to move, and he can’t ship product out.  This will go on for an indeterminate period.
For the kinds of drugs and supplies I’ve mentioned above, the export markets will not be getting any new production for many weeks.  These supplies and medicines are in critical and desperate supply here and the Chinese government has ordered local governments to procure whatever is necessary from factories and shops.  The true numbers of the infected and dead are many orders of magnitude higher than the official accounts, which nobody really believes anymore.
A quick note about care or aid packages:  in the event you have churches or friends here in Asia who ask you to send them medical supplies, those packages will likely never arrive to where you had hoped.  The customs officials have been ordered to seize any medical supplies for use in hospitals.  Even passengers arriving in airports are having their carry-on bags and stowed luggage searched for masks, respirators, rain gear (no kidding)—anything that could be used by hospital staff to protect themselves from what they’re dealing with—and it’s being confiscated.
With respect to the disease itself, I don’t think this disease can be stopped anything short of supernatural means.  Infections continue to soar, even under military-enforced quarantines that have been in place for almost a month.  You have to see the Army response here to believe it, and yet nothing has worked.  You mercifully haven’t had many cases there, yet, but I fear that you’re just six or seven weeks behind where we are in China, and four to five weeks behind Japan.  Only a miracle can stop it, and that’s what we need to be praying for. If you’re a man or woman of faith, get some more.  If at some point you left it or lost it, go back to where you saw it last, and pick it up again.
Meanwhile, an Italian friend sends this along from The New York Times. Excerpt:

“If this happens in Africa it will be a huge struggle because the health services are quite overstretched dealing with ongoing diseases like malaria and measles and the current Ebola outbreak,” said Michel Yao, the World Health Organization’s Emergency Operations Program Manager for Africa.

Africa was largely spared in 2002 and 2003 when the SARS virus, which also originated in China, spread around the world, killing nearly 800 people and infecting more than 8,000, mostly in China and Hong Kong. Africa reported only one case, in South Africa.

But the risk is far greater now, experts say. China and Africa have become intertwined in the last two decades as China has expanded its political, economic, and military ties to Africa, funding large infrastructure projects and pledging tens of billions of dollars in investments and loans.

Chinese citizens have flocked to Africa, working in industries ranging from manufacturing and technology to health care and construction. Estimates of how many Chinese are now living in Africa range from about 200,000 to as many as two million.

Air travel between China and Africa has increased exponentially in the last decade alone, from one flight a day to an average of eight direct flights.

He adds:
Yesterday I had an extensive chat with a colleague of mine whose wife is a microbiologist at [a major Italian university].
Africa is the major concern. The continent’s health infrastructure is virtually non-existent and China has huge interests and lots of people there. The Times reports about the 8 direct flights a day, but epidemiologists have calculated there are about 4,000 indirect flight routes between China and Africa.
On the up side, if the contagion is successfully contained until spring, we will have time until next winter to develop a vaccine or an anti-viral.
In the meantime, if the flu spreads to Africa, it will stay there all year round. In fact, for reasons not completely understood, the virus survives in tropical rainy climates much better than in temperate climate summers.

On the other hand, US experts are saying that we just don’t know if warm weather will retard the virus’s spread. That’s typically how it works with viruses, but we don’t have enough experience yet with this one to say for sure:

Influenza viruses, too, do not show typical seasonal patterns in tropical areas, and the new coronavirus has already landed in those parts of the world.

The new coronavirus “seems to circulate quite nicely in tropical areas,” such as Singapore, Fisman said in an email, “so it seems to me unlikely that it would stop circulating simply because of warmer weather.”

Lipsitch added that if temperature or humidity are important factors for this new virus, air conditioning could undermine some of the potential benefit hot and humid climates bring.

“An April end to the outbreak would be truly astonishing,” Lipsitch said. “I think it will just be getting under way in much of the world.”

If this thing reaches Africa, you can look for an exodus across the Mediterranean the likes of which history has never seen. European governments are going to have to sink those boats to prevent them from landing, or allow them to land, and be overwhelmed by the human tide of potentially disease-carrying people. One way or the other, it will be an apocalypse.

Wait, did I say “if this thing reaches Africa”? In the time I’ve been working on this post, news has broken:

(That’s a good news aggregator to follow on Twitter, by the way.)

A new paper from scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where they work on disease modeling, is pretty alarming:

The director of the US CDC says that this virus will probably be with us for some time to come:

“We don’t know a lot about this virus,” he said. “This virus is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year, and I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission.”

This has been going around social media:

The question then becomes: what would the mortality rate be?


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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